Britain. The garden of Cymbeline’s palace.
(First Gentleman; Second Gentleman; Queen; Posthumus; Imogen; Cymbeline; Lords; Pisanio)
Two gentlemen gossip about how the princess Imogen has displeased her father the king by marrying “a poor but worthy gentleman” and has been imprisoned, while her husband is banished. Imogen was supposed to marry the unworthy Cloten, her stepbrother. Imogen’s stepmother the queen hypocritically assures Posthumus and Imogen of her friendship before going to suggest to Cymbeline that he take a walk that will lead him straight to the lovers. Imogen assures Posthumus that in truth the Queen hates her and is plotting evil. Posthumus tells Imogen he will be staying with Philario in Rome. She gives him a ring to wear until they meet again, and Posthumus leaves her a bracelet. Cymbeline enters, infuriated that they have met again. Posthumus leaves in disgrace and Cymbeline and Imogen have a battle of words, Imogen telling her father it is his own fault if she fell in love with her now-husband. Cymbeline orders the Queen to lock Imogen up. Posthumus’ servant Pisanio reports that Cloten and Posthumus have fought, but were separated before damage was done. (218 lines)
Enter two Gentlemen.
You do not meet a man but frowns. Our bloods
No more obey the heavens than our courtiers’
Still seem as does the King’s.
But what’s the matter?
His daughter, and the heir of ’s kingdom (whom
He purpos’d to his wive’s sole son—a widow
That late he married), hath referr’d herself
Unto a poor but worthy gentleman. She’s wedded,
Her husband banish’d, she imprison’d: all
Is outward sorrow, though I think the King
Be touch’d at very heart.
None but the King?
He that hath lost her too; so is the Queen,
That most desir’d the match. But not a courtier,
Although they wear their faces to the bent
Of the King’s looks, hath a heart that is not
Glad at the thing they scowl at.
And why so?
He that hath miss’d the Princess is a thing
Too bad for bad report; and he that hath her
(I mean, that married her, alack, good man!
And therefore banish’d) is a creature such
As, to seek through the regions of the earth
For one his like, there would be something failing
In him that should compare. I do not think
So fair an outward and such stuff within
Endows a man but he.
You speak him far.
I do extend him, sir, within himself,
Crush him together rather than unfold
His measure duly.
What’s his name and birth?
I cannot delve him to the root: his father
Was call’d Sicilius, who did join his honor
Against the Romans with Cassibelan,
But had his titles by Tenantius, whom
He serv’d with glory and admir’d success:
So gain’d the sur-addition Leonatus;
And had (besides this gentleman in question)
Two other sons, who in the wars o’ th’ time
Died with their swords in hand; for which their father,
Then old and fond of issue, took such sorrow
That he quit being, and his gentle lady,
Big of this gentleman, our theme, deceas’d
As he was born. The King he takes the babe
To his protection, calls him Posthumus Leonatus,
Breeds him and makes him of his bedchamber,
Puts to him all the learnings that his time
Could make him the receiver of, which he took,
As we do air, fast as ’twas minist’red,
And in ’s spring became a harvest; liv’d in court
(Which rare it is to do) most prais’d, most lov’d,
A sample to the youngest, to th’ more mature
A glass that feated them, and to the graver
A child that guided dotards. To his mistress
(For whom he now is banish’d), her own price
Proclaims how she esteem’d him; and his virtue
By her election may be truly read,
What kind of man he is.
I honor him
Even out of your report. But pray you tell me,
Is she sole child to th’ King?
His only child.
He had two sons (if this be worth your hearing,
Mark it), the eldest of them at three years old,
I’ th’ swathing clothes the other, from their nursery
Were stol’n, and to this hour no guess in knowledge
Which way they went.
How long is this ago?
Some twenty years.
That a king’s children should be so convey’d,
So slackly guarded, and the search so slow,
That could not trace them!
Howsoe’er ’tis strange,
Or that the negligence may well be laugh’d at,
Yet is it true, sir.
I do well believe you.
We must forbear. Here comes the gentleman,
The Queen, and Princess.
Enter the Queen, Posthumus, and Imogen.
No, be assur’d you shall not find me, daughter,
After the slander of most stepmothers,
Evil-ey’d unto you. You’re my prisoner, but
Your jailer shall deliver you the keys
That lock up your restraint. For you, Posthumus,
So soon as I can win th’ offended King,
I will be known your advocate. Marry, yet
The fire of rage is in him, and ’twere good
You lean’d unto his sentence with what patience
Your wisdom may inform you.
Please your Highness,
I will from hence today.
You know the peril,
I’ll fetch a turn about the garden, pitying
The pangs of barr’d affections, though the King
Hath charg’d you should not speak together.
Dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyrant
Can tickle where she wounds! My dearest husband,
I something fear my father’s wrath, but nothing
(Always reserv’d my holy duty) what
His rage can do on me. You must be gone,
And I shall here abide the hourly shot
Of angry eyes, not comforted to live,
But that there is this jewel in the world
That I may see again.
My queen, my mistress!
O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause
To be suspected of more tenderness
Than doth become a man. I will remain
The loyall’st husband that did e’er plight troth.
My residence in Rome at one Philario’s,
Who to my father was a friend, to me
Known but by letter; thither write, my queen,
And with mine eyes I’ll drink the words you send,
Though ink be made of gall.
Be brief, I pray you.
If the King come, I shall incur I know not
How much of his displeasure.
Yet I’ll move him
To walk this way. I never do him wrong
But he does buy my injuries, to be friends;
Pays dear for my offenses.
Should we be taking leave
As long a term as yet we have to live,
The loathness to depart would grow. Adieu!
Nay, stay a little:
Were you but riding forth to air yourself,
Such parting were too petty. Look here, love,
This diamond was my mother’s. Take it, heart,
But keep it till you woo another wife,
When Imogen is dead.
How, how? Another?
You gentle gods, give me but this I have,
And cere up my embracements from a next
With bonds of death!
Puts on the ring.
Remain, remain thou here,
While sense can keep it on. And, sweetest, fairest,
As I my poor self did exchange for you,
To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles
I still win of you. For my sake wear this:
It is a manacle of love, I’ll place it
Upon this fairest prisoner.
Putting a bracelet upon her arm.
O the gods!
When shall we see again?
Enter Cymbeline and Lords.
Alack, the King!
Thou basest thing, avoid hence, from my sight!
If after this command thou fraught the court
With thy unworthiness, thou diest. Away!
Thou’rt poison to my blood.
The gods protect you,
And bless the good remainders of the court!
I am gone.
There cannot be a pinch in death
More sharp than this is.
O disloyal thing,
That shouldst repair my youth, thou heap’st
A year’s age on me.
I beseech you, sir,
Harm not yourself with your vexation,
I am senseless of your wrath; a touch more rare
Subdues all pangs, all fears.
Past grace? Obedience?
Past hope, and in despair, that way past grace.
That mightst have had the sole son of my queen!
O blessed, that I might not! I chose an eagle,
And did avoid a puttock.
Thou took’st a beggar, wouldst have made my throne
A seat for baseness.
No, I rather added
A lustre to it.
O thou vild one!
It is your fault that I have lov’d Posthumus:
You bred him as my playfellow, and he is
A man worth any woman; overbuys me
Almost the sum he pays.
What? Art thou mad?
Almost, sir: heaven restore me! Would I were
A neat-herd’s daughter, and my Leonatus
Our neighbor shepherd’s son!
Thou foolish thing!
To the Queen.
They were again together; you have done
Not after our command. Away with her,
And pen her up.
Beseech your patience. Peace,
Dear lady daughter, peace! Sweet sovereign,
Leave us to ourselves, and make yourself some comfort
Out of your best advice.
Nay, let her languish
A drop of blood a day, and being aged
Die of this folly!
Exit with Lords.
Fie, you must give way.
Here is your servant. How now, sir? What news?
My lord your son drew on my master.
No harm, I trust, is done?
There might have been,
But that my master rather play’d than fought
And had no help of anger. They were parted
By gentlemen at hand.
I am very glad on’t.
Your son’s my father’s friend, he takes his part
To draw upon an exile. O brave sir!
I would they were in Afric both together,
Myself by with a needle, that I might prick
The goer-back. Why came you from your master?
On his command. He would not suffer me
To bring him to the haven; left these notes
Of what commands I should be subject to,
When’t pleas’d you to employ me.
This hath been
Your faithful servant. I dare lay mine honor
He will remain so.
I humbly thank your Highness.
Pray walk awhile.
About some half hour hence,
Pray you speak with me. You shall, at least,
Go see my lord aboard. For this time leave me.